Healthcare Developments Stemming from the Democratic National Convention

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Clinton and Kaine plan to expand and improve the Affordable Care Act

The conclusion of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia last month has left many wondering if there are any new developments regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s proposed healthcare plan. Perhaps one of the greatest recent developments was the July 22 selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, since Kaine will certainly bring his own legislative record on healthcare to the Democratic platform.

To keep you informed, ADVANCE has shared what Clinton said about healthcare at the DNC, an updated summary of her major plans for the U.S. healthcare system, and several highlights from Kaine’s record on healthcare.

Hillary Clinton

In her nomination acceptance speech at the DNC, Clinton said, “It’s true…I sweat the details of policy – whether we’re talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Mich., the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs.” She also said, “If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care…join us…If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions…join us.”

However, The New York Times said in a July 29 article that despite claiming to “sweat the details of policy,” Clinton “delivered a speech that was remarkably without hard facts.” The article continued, “Much of her address was a mix of descriptions of her upbringing, assertions of her opinions and generalized attacks on Donald J. Trump. She talked about marching ‘toward a more perfect union’ and said Mr. Trump ‘doesn’t like talking about his plans.’ And even when she said ‘I love talking about mine,’ she offered few concrete numbers or assertions to examine.”

Though Clinton may not have gone into the details of her healthcare plan during her acceptance speech, she has made her support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) quite clear in the past. According to her official campaign site, Clinton plans on defending and expanding the ACA. To do so, Clinton intends to push for the expansion of Medicaid throughout the states and to make enrollment a simpler process. She has also proposed establishing a “public option” and said she would allow individuals over 55 years old to buy into Medicare. Clinton has also pledged to lower out-of-pocket costs such as copays and deductibles.

Another major emphasis of Clinton’s healthcare plan is reducing the cost of prescription drugs. One part of this plan is to allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs – which has also been proposed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Clinton has also called for increased access to healthcare for rural Americans. To do so, Clinton has said that she will investigate cost-effective ways to make more healthcare providers eligible for telehealth reimbursement through Medicare and other programs, including federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics.

Among her other proposals, Clinton has pledged to defend women’s access to reproductive healthcare, including preventative care, affordable contraception, and safe and legal abortion. She also plans on doubling the funding for primary-care services at community health centers over the next 10 years. Unlike Trump, who wants to enforce immigration laws to ease healthcare cost pressures, Clinton plans on allowing families to buy health insurance on the health exchanges regardless of their immigration status.

Tim Kaine

Like Clinton, Senator Tim Kaine has served in public office for decades. Prior to joining the Senate in 2013, he served as Lieutenant Governor and then Governor of Virginia. Also like Clinton, Kaine is a supporter of the ACA and is in favor of improving and expanding upon it. He was an advocate for Obamacare when he ran for Senate in 2012, and since then has cosponsored several bills to improve the law.

In 2014, Kaine introduced the Family Coverage Act to help families access tax credits on state and federal healthcare exchanges. Then in 2015 he cosponsored the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act to require more businesses to offer benefits under the ACA. Kaine also supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, like Clinton.

Kaine was touted the “prevention candidate of 2016” in a July 22 STAT article, due to his considerable focus on preventative healthcare. According to STAT, Kaine’s focus on prevention and education may add another dimension to Clinton’s campaign. “Much of Clinton’s focus has been on the healthcare coverage side, and on medical research to find new cures,” the article said. “But for Kaine, keeping people from getting sick – and taking care of their healthcare needs at the front end – is just as important as figuring out how to get the best medical care after they’ve gotten sick.”

For example, Kaine has focused much of his efforts on combating the opioid epidemic. Kaine’s official site says, “One of the healthcare issues I’m closely focused on in the Senate is combating the heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis that is harming communities across Virginia and the nation. I will continue to urge my colleagues to increase funding for critical prescription drug abuse prevention, treatment and research programs that can help communities fight this epidemic.”

National Public Radio (NPR) reported in a July 27 article that since his election to the Senate, Kaine has cosponsored bills that would form an advisory committee to assist the FDA with approving new opioids, modify guidelines for the VA concerning opioid prescriptions, protect first responders from lawsuits when they administer emergency overdose-reversal drugs, and establish a drug monitoring program for Medicare.

In 2009, Kaine signed into law a ban on smoking throughout a majority of Virginia restaurants. He also made classroom visits to discuss the importance of exercise, commissioned an initiative to fight obesity, and has worked to reduce the state’s high infant mortality rate.

Though Kaine has been praised for his prevention efforts, he has also received criticism over the years for his seemingly mixed stance on abortion, according to NPR. Kaine professes to personally oppose abortion, but he has also said that he supports a woman’s right to choose. He supports Planned Parenthood and opposes abortion restrictions, but has also emphasized the importance of education and access to contraception as a way of preventing the need for abortions.

Mental health has been an important issue for Kaine as well. The 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting occurred during Kaine’s time as governor, and close to a year later, he signed a $42 million legislative bundle to revamp the state’s mental health system. The funds were chiefly used for emergency mental health services, children’s mental health services, and increased case managers, doctors, and jail diversion projects. According to NPR, these laws made it easier for authorities to send an individual experiencing a mental health crisis to treatment involuntarily. This means that authorities did not have to prove the patient was in “imminent danger.” Rather, authorities just had to determine a “substantial likelihood” that the individual had the potential to inflict serious harm to himself or others.

Ultimately, whether or not Americans are satisfied with Clinton and Kaine’s proposed improvements to the Affordable Care Act – alongside many other important issues – will be reflected in the polls come November.

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Kirsten Malenke
Kirsten Malenke

Kirsten Malenke is a staff writer at ADVANCE. Contact kmalenke@advanceweb.com.

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